Ruhollah Zam was hanged early on Saturday morning after a court found him guilty of, “corruption on Earth.”
Iran has executed a once-exiled journalist over his online work that helped inspire nationwide economic protests in 2017, authorities said, just months after he returned to Tehran under mysterious circumstances.
Iranian state television and the state-run IRNA news agency said that Ruhollah Zam, 47, was hanged early on Saturday morning.
In June, a court sentenced Zam to death, saying he had been convicted of “corruption on Earth,” a charge often used in cases involving espionage or attempts to overthrow Iran’s government.
Zam’s website AmadNews and a channel he created on the popular messaging app Telegram had spread the timings of the protests and embarrassing information about officials that directly challenged Iran’s Shiite theocracy.
Those demonstrations, which began at the end of 2017, represented the biggest challenge to Iran since the 2009 Green Movement protests and set the stage for similar mass unrest in November of last year.
The European Union condemned in the "strongest terms" Iran's Zam.
"The European Union condemns this act in the strongest terms and recalls once again its irrevocable opposition to the use of capital punishment under any circumstances," said a statement from the EU's External Action Service.
"It is also imperative for the Iranian authorities to uphold the due process rights of accused individuals and to cease the practice of using televised confessions to establish and promote their guilt."
France reacted with anger to the hanging of the Paris-based journalist, which it called “barbaric and unacceptable” and said ran counter to Iran’s international obligations.
The French foreign ministry said in a statement: “France condemns in the strongest possible terms this serious breach of free expression and press freedom in Iran. This is a barbaric and unacceptable act that goes against the country’s international commitments.”
#Iran | Exécution de #Rohollah_Zam— France Diplomatie🇫🇷 (@francediplo) December 12, 2020
La 🇫🇷 condamne avec la plus grande fermeté cette atteinte grave à la liberté d’expression et de la presse en 🇮🇷. Il s’agit d’un acte barbare et inacceptable, contraire aux engagements internationaux de l'Iran. [...]
➡️ https://t.co/aez5FCRpqa pic.twitter.com/dUFHit9SqI
The initial spark for the 2017 protests was a sudden jump in food prices.
Many believe that hardline opponents of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani instigated the first demonstrations in the conservative city of Mashhad in northeastern Iran, trying to direct public anger at the president.
But as protests spread from town to town, the backlash turned against the entire ruling class.
Soon, cries directly challenging Rouhani and even Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei could be heard in online videos shared by Zam.
Zam’s channel also shared times and organisational details for the protests.
THREAD— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) December 12, 2020
Exclusive video of #RuhollahZam playing with his daughter in a tiny room in a Parisian migrant hostel, sent to me by a documentary maker. Zam wasn't just a statistic
Europe must recall their ambassadors from Iran. Silence means more terrorism, assassinations & abductions pic.twitter.com/MnFCd24Qxo
Telegram shut down the channel over Iranian government complaints it spread information about how to make gasoline bombs.
The channel later continued under a different name.
Zam, who has said he fled Iran after being falsely accused of working with foreign intelligence services, denied inciting violence on Telegram at the time.
The 2017 protests reportedly saw some 5,000 people detained and 25 killed.
The details of his arrest still remain unclear.
Though he was based in Paris, Zam somehow returned to Iran and found himself detained by intelligence officials.
He was one of several opposition figures in exile who mysteriously returned to Iran in the past year.
France previously has criticised his death sentence as "a serious blow to freedom of expression and press freedom in Iran.”
A series of a televised confessions aired earlier this year over his work.
During an interview on July, Zam said he has lost some 30 kilograms since his arrest in October 2019.
He said following the arrest that he could meet his father after nine years and his mother and sister after some six years.
Zam is the son of Shia cleric Mohammad Ali Zam, a reformist who once served in a government policy position in the early 1980s.
The cleric wrote a letter published by Iranian media in July 2017 in which he said he wouldn’t support his son over AmadNews’ reporting and messages on its Telegram channel.